Icelandic vodka making a hit in Portland region
There were lots of memorable people and moments at Feast Portland 2017, which wrapped up a few weeks ago after raising tens of thousands of dollars for local organizations to end childhood hunger.
One of the more quirky and obscure vendors at the Grand Tasting, in Pioneer Courthouse Square, was in the shape of a little orange house.
It was a pop-up bar hosted by Reyka vodka, based in Borgarnes, Iceland — a tiny town on a rocky peninsula of the west side of the island nation.
And they brought the party 6,000 miles to Oregon with their Reyka Reyka Mule — their version of the classic Moscow Mule.
While Oregon is more than twice as large as Iceland and 12 times as populated, Oregon and Iceland — especially the capital city of Reykjavik — actually have a lot in common.
"Both cities' food cultures are really focused on sustainability, local high-quality ingredients and the historical aspect of the restaurant business," said Ólafur Ígústsson, one of Iceland's premier chefs.
Agustsson says more chefs are becoming well-known internationally, but "I think it is obvious that Portland is always one step ahead of Reykjavík, maybe because I like Portland so much, but we are getting closer every year."
Reyka is probably the most well-known Iceland brand to make inroads here; others are Omnom Chocolate, Saltverk hand-crafted salt and Brennivín (black death), which can be found in a few specialty shops across the city.
With nonstop flights between Portland and Reykavik on Icelandair —coupled with dreamy images of unspoiled landscapes and glaciers on social media — it's become a top buzzworthy travel destination from Oregon.
There are even more connections drawing the two cultures together.
The young people in both places are quite similar, Ígústsson said: free-spirited and laid-back. There's a creative, scrappy culture of DIYers. Even in a city with dozens of small-batch distilleries — nearly all of which make vodka — Reyka is still making an impact, with its strong reference to Icelandic nature and culture.
"I think that people in Portland and Oregon can easily relate to that," Ígústsson said, and find it interesting and exciting."
We've just missed National Vodka Day — it was Wednesday, Oct. 4 — but don't let that stop you. Portland is home to many fine distillers of vodka, among other unique spirits.
Here are some of them: Eastside Distilling, House Spirits Distillery, New Deal Distillery, Rolling River Spirits, Vinn Distillery, Wild Roots Vodka.
For more: distilleryrowpdx.com.